Lan Zhou, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, has received a five-year, $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study human colorectal cancer. Her work focuses on the effect of the imbalance of the gut microbiome, the immune response, and genetics in the development of adenocarcinoma (cancer that forms in the lining of the glands) through the serrated pathway.
The “serrated pathway” is a molecular pathway postulated for a subset of colorectal cancers that develop from certain serrated adenomas/polyps–growths that have a saw-tooth appearance when viewed under the microscope. It is distinct from the conventional adenoma-carcinoma (cancer) pathway, which involves “flat” growths. As many as 15 percent of all colorectal cancers start from serrated adenoma polyps with dysplasia (cells that look distinctively abnormal under the microscope). Serrated lesions are also found in patients with irritable bowel disease and colitis, often contributing to colon cancer development in that population. Serrated cancer lesions are not well described, do not respond well to chemotherapy compared to other tumors, and are associated with worse prognoses.
“Colon cancer can start from different adenomas and have different mechanisms, which
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